“Plus, I’ve always been fascinated with the physical body,” she continues. “There’s a lot it does that we don’t tell it to do.”
Dawn was born in 1974 in Wailuku, Hawaii, a town in central Maui where the main hospital is located. Her family lived in a small rented house in the nearby town of Paia, north of Haleakala near the beach.
Haleakala is a massive, 10,000-foot volcano that forms more than 75% of the peanut-shaped island of Maui, toward the east. The western 25% of the island is formed by the West Maui Mountains.
Dawn is the youngest of Yvonne and Robert Fujimoto’s 3 children. Dawn’s sister Yvette, the eldest, now serves in the U.S. Air Force and is stationed at Yokota Air Base in Japan. Her brother Rob is a journeyman lineman in Maui. He works outdoors, for public utilities.
Both of Dawn’s parents were science teachers. Her father, who is Japanese-American, taught science to students in grades 4 through 8. Her mother, who is Caucasian, taught high school science.
Dawn’s earliest memory if of climbing a tree and looking down on her father, sister, and brother getting into the family truck and heading off to school. (Presumably her mother had to take Dawn to preschool before heading off in another direction to the high school.) Dawn remembers clearly that the truck was a 1973 Chevy Luv pick-up, “Puke green with a white canopy,” she says with a laugh.
The town of Paia, says Dawn, “Was full of hippies and surfers,” because Paia is near the island’s north shore, where there are better waves – she learned to surf herself at a young age. “There were also native Hawaiians who beat up haoles (whites). It was a rough place.”
Dawn was a bit rough herself. “I was a terror!” she says. “I was active and outspoken, always bringing it up front.” Among the 3 siblings in her family, she was the most vocal.
Beginning in 4th grade, for 5 years, her father was her science teacher. It wasn’t fun. “I had to live up to a higher standard than I would have with another teacher,” she says, “and he expected more out of me than he did of other students.”
After Paia Elementary, she went on to Kalama Intermediate School for 7th and 8th grades, where kids from different elementary schools converged. Once a boy tried to cut in front of her in line at the cafeteria. “Hey, man, you can’t do that!” she yelled. Another boy warned him to heed her because she was from Paia, which had the toughest reputation among all the areas represented at the school.
At Kalama Intermediate School, Dawn met another boy named Brian Asuncion. They didn’t take an interest in each other, and they didn’t date in high school, either. When kids traded school pictures, a year-end ritual in most places, Brian once declined to give Dawn his picture. “He was cute, though,” she says.
Fortunately, in high school, Dawn did not have to suffer the indignity of having her mother as a science teacher, as there were more options. But she says with admiration, “Mom was the brains in the family. Besides teaching, she also got her real estate license. She built several cottages, nicer than where we lived, but even though other people thought she was crazy, she didn’t move us into any of them. Instead she rented them out, saved the money, and finally was able to buy 6 acres near Kula, in the upcountry, and had a house built for us there.” The upcountry is inland, on the slopes of Haleakala. Dawn attended Maui High School, one of several on the island, while living in Kula.
Once at Kula, surrounded by tillable land, her parents began to grow onions, the famous Maui sweet onions. “We started farming,” says Dawn, “and there went freedom. But I learned good life lessons. I learned that hard work will get you where you want to go.”
She also began to participate in sports, an appropriate venue to channel her aggression. “I learned about teamwork, compromise, encouragement, not giving up, pushing through.”
She graduated from Maui High School in 1992, and went on to college at the University of Northern Colorado, in Greeley. “That was a huge branching point in my life,” she says. She went to the contiguous 48 states, an unfamiliar place, all by herself, unaccompanied by her parents.
At UNC, she “walked on” the women’s volleyball team, meaning that she had to try out, as opposed to receiving a scholarship. Her team, the UNC Bears, was a winning team. A Division 2 team (divisions are based on the overall size of the school), they placed high in national tournaments: 4th place in 1993, and 3rd place in 1994 and 1995. “My teammates called me ‘Fuj’ because there were 3 Dawns on the team and it got kind of confusing,” she says. Recently she visited Greeley and enjoyed an informal reunion with 4 of her teammates.
She graduated from UNC in 1997 with a Bachelor of Arts and teaching certificate in kinesiology, which allowed her to teach grades kindergarten through 12. She returned to Maui and found a job teaching in high school, but not as a physical education teacher.
For 2 years Dawn taught peer education at Baldwin High School, covering a variety of adolescent health issues. She trained some teenagers, and they in turn made presentations to their peers. “They were more likely to listen to each other than to me,” she says.
For 2 years after that she taught pregnant and parenting teenagers at her alma mater, Maui High School, to help them graduate, and also to educate them about the biology of pregnancy, nutrition, time management and other issues. Partway through that experience, “I started to feel stagnant,” she says. “I love kids, but not necessarily in that environment. I didn’t like the structure and politics of teaching in a school.” Looking ahead, while still teaching, she attended massage school in Wailuku, her birthplace, and earned her LMP.
During that time she also saw Brian Asuncion again. This time, sparks flew. “He’s kind, caring, nice, hardworking, and handsome,” she says glowingly. The two were married on March 3, 2001 – Girls’ Day in Japan, she points out. Three months later the school year ended, she had her LMP, she was ready to move on, and her new husband was willing. They moved to Anacortes because Dawn has extended family on her mother’s side here.
Brian is an electrician, employed by Island Electric. His work is mostly residential.
Because LMP requirements differ significantly from state to state, Dawn attended massage school again in Washington, this time at Ashmead College in Everett. She graduated in 2004 and soon after she opened Restore Balance Massage Therapy.
In keeping with her motivation to restore balance, Dawn practices yoga, and is an independent distributor for MonaVie, a health and wellness company that sells juices, energy blends, dietary supplements and other products made from acai berries. Sometimes called a “miracle berry” because it is so high in antioxidants and phytonutrients, the acai berry is the fruit of a variety of palm tree that grows in Central and South America.
Dawn likes to read books about personal growth, spirituality, and – at the opposite end of the spectrum – money management. A year ago, she took a step toward enhancing her personal growth and joined Toastmasters, an international organization that helps people improve their public speaking and leadership skills. “I joined because I wanted to increase my comfort zone, gain confidence, and meet new people. I’m not done learning there – I still have room for growth. Plus, the people are fun!” Dawn will soon become president of the local club, the Anacortes Dockers.
Still an avid volleyball player, she plays pick-up games twice a week through the Anacortes Parks & Recreation Department at Fidalgo Elementary School, and when she goes home to visit her parents in Kula, she still surfs.
Hawaii is still home to her. Music takes her back there. When she isn’t surfing radio stations, often landing on country stations, she listens to Hawaiian music.
A special place from her upbringing is a place called Makena, on a west-facing shore of south Maui. Bordered on the north by a posh resort and on the south by a natural area reserve, Makena is an untamed area that harkens back to the days of old Hawaii.
“I often went camping there with my family,” says Dawn. “It was in the boonies. We’d have potlucks and barbecues on the beach – the beach was just beautiful.” Sometimes they slept in a tent, other times in the open air, in sleeping bags with cardboard underneath, to protect them from sharp kiawe thorns that littered the ground.
“You are what you believe,” says Dawn. She believes the future will bring positive things, and she exudes a positive force herself.∆
First posted 6/5/12 on AnacortesNow.com. Copyright © 2012 by Teru Lundsten.
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